The entertainment industry and fans around the world are still mourning the loss of actor and philanthropist . While he was best known for the Fast & Furious franchise, with Furious 7 being the most anticipated of the series yet, one might be surprised by the full filmography of his career, which stretched across three decades and would have been far longer but for his untimely death.
Join the Moviepilot staff writers as they pay their last respects to the beloved actor and share their favorite Paul Walker films.
Varsity Blues (1999)
1999's Varsity Blues was one of those classic coming-of-age stories that has a special place in the hearts of those in their late 20s to early 30s. While it was an ensemble film carried directly on the shoulders of as the protagonist, Mox, what always struck me most about the film was 's character, Lance. When he is first introduced to us during the opening credits, it's with a heroic fanfare and upward-panning camera angle emphasizing his exalted status around town as the quarterback and captain of the high school football team. The stage is set for him to be your typical, two-dimensional stock character: A blonde-haired, blue-eyed, football playing, head cheerleader dating, All-American boy that was, you assumed, going to be a dim-witted asshole.
Except that he wasn't. A character that could and should have been predictable in every way imaginable instead turned into a character you genuinely cared about. Loyal, kind-hearted, and not at all begrudging of Mox's success when he replaces him as the QB after an injury, Lance was a genuinely good person with an analytic mind hiding beneath the jock persona. The role was a fitting one for Walker, who, from all accounts, was essentially the same in reality, a straightforward, good-natured guy who was surprisingly down to earth.
In a film that has a number of now-iconic scenes (along with a quintessential late-90s soundtrack), including Ali Larter's infamous whipped cream bikini and the firsthand discovery that their teacher was a stripper on the side, this surprising depth of character was subtly illustrated a number of times in the movie, taking what could have been a forgettable, throwaway film and turning it into a teen genre-subverting classic that's still a ton of fun to watch today.
Joy Ride (2001)
After Paul Walker’s character Lewis picks up his drunk and disorderly brother, Fuller (), he makes a declaration: “No bullshit small talk about me, my relationships, or my car.” In the wake of his death, the noise of small talk is hard to avoid. That’s why it’s refreshing to go back and look at Walker in the pure, unadulterated car-versus-tractor-trailer B-movie that embraces a heightened drive-in feel, reminiscent of ’s Duel.
The catalyst of the film is like most things in a young adult’s life: Hormones. After realizing that his life long crush, Veera (Leelee Sobieski), is finally single, he refunds his airfare to buy an $1100 heap of rusted metal to make the trek from Berkeley to the University of Colorado to pick her up. Somewhere along the way, a CB radio is installed. It’s like “prehistoric Internet” (kind of like how I feel when I see Walker using a landline in his dorm), but still manages to tell a fearful story about technology. Whether it’s sketchy identities in AOL chatrooms in 1995 all the way up to Manti Teo’o’s made-up girlfriend last year, people can be exploited when the reality of one's existence is murky. However, in the case of Joy Ride, they can be chased, abducted, and tortured for pretending to seduce a truck driver named Rusty Nail under the false pretenses of sex and pink champagne.
Even if the Fast and the Furious blockbusters are what define him forever, Joy Ride will always be the stepping stone that bridged Walker's gap between being the hot team dream bully in She’s All That to racing an Alfa Romeo Guilietta as Brian O’Conner in Fast 6. Plus, you get to see his butt.
Eight Below (2006)
I have a confession to make; I watched Eight Below on a night bus traveling through the Peruvian Andes. I chose to watch this film not out of any great desire to see Mr. Walker and some cute dogs battle for survival, but because there was nothing else on and I needed something to take my attention away from the fact the bus seemed to be on the cusp of careening over the edge of a mountain.
90 minutes, three Inca beers and 10 chewed fingernails later and I was an emotional wreck, my heart split in two by the incredible journey of survival and companionship I'd been taken on by Paul and his family of incredibly brave huskies. I'm not normally one to get teary-eyed during a movie, but his performance and easy camaraderie with his furry friends was incredibly touching. Paul Walker was a matinee idol harking back to the old days of movie stardom and at that moment, when the bus was on the edge of oblivion, I couldn't think of any actor that I would've rather spent my potentially final few hours with.
Running Scared (2006)
While admittedly not the best film I've seen, I have decided to choose Running Scared as my favourite Paul Walker film for a number of reasons. The most important being the sheer ambition and broadness of vision that this film tried to accomplish. In one film we have: the Russian mafia, the Italian mafia, crooked cops, undercover cops, drug deals gone wrong, a meth lab, pimps, prostitutes, pedophilic child molesters/serial killers, evidence tampering, bribery, murder, theft, coke-sniffing gamblers, car crashes, evil hockey players, shootouts, wife beaters, child beaters, death threats a-plenty, strippers, a torch fight, patricide, suicide, and regicide. Alright, there was no regicide, but after everything else, what reason could they possibly have for leaving it out? Topic for another article.
How in the world they managed to cram all of that into 122 minutes of film is beyond comprehension (as the film sometimes is, likely as a result of trying to cram all of that in). However, 's performance as the blue collar, working class hero who's mixed in with the wrong crowd helps to bring it all together. As he hunts through the night for the missing gun that can tie him to several of the aforementioned crimes, we learn more about his character. His resolve, determination, and change of heart towards the young Russian boy Oleg are all clearly visible to the viewer, and bring us closer to his character. The plot might not be the best, but the frustration and desperation we see in Walker is felt as very real. Thus, even during some parts of the film that leave you scratching your head, and especially those scenes that truly have you on edge (they exist), you are always, somewhere deep down, pulling for Walker to make it through.
Then, as the icing on the cake, we learn that Walker isn't even a bad guy after all, and was an undercover cop the whole time, so we don't have to worry about him going to jail for any of the various crimes he committed on that one fateful night. Or even feel bad about them! He then stages his own death so he can retreat to the country with his family and live happily ever after. Isn't it nice when things get wrapped up all neatly in the end?
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
For me, as probably for a lot of fans, Paul Walker is one with the Fast & Furious franchise. I distinctly remember watching the first episode during my high school years: everybody who wanted to be at least remotely cool had to see The Fast & the Furious. Paul Walker and in the leads made the original cop and criminal duo iconic forever. Despite the spectacular street racing scenes being probably the most attractive part of the movie, director Rob Cohen also put some effort into explaining his characters. They live their lives "a quarter-mile at a time" and if you join them, you will be part of a crazy thrill ride.
It is still an amusing Saturday evening popcorn movie, featuring some qualities that makes the film enjoyable for an audience who is not necessarily into engines. It is full of action, but besides the car chases and explosions, it also builds up a story about friendship and romance. Paul Walker plays the role of Brian O'Conner, an undercover cop, who has to infiltrate a group of street racers and expose a smuggling ring they are running. In the end however, O'Connor turns out to be a terrible police officer, but a trustworthy friend. The Fast & the Furious might not be the greatest movie of all time, but Paul Walker's performance made it fond to a lot of people's hearts.
I could even say that the characters are a little bit similar to James Dean and his friends in Nicholas Ray's classic, Rebel Without a Cause. The tragic loss of the main hero in real life makes this comparison with the other American icon even more apparent.
The Skulls (2000)
Despite an approval rating of less than 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Skulls holds a special place in my heart. The Millenium came and went and for me it was the era of sleepovers and re-watching movies over and over again. The Skulls falls within the same bracket as Cruel Intentions, Bless the Child and The Beach; movies wholly unremarkable in any respect other than the legions of teen girls that viewed them repeatedly.
These films seemed camp and nostalgic at the time, so looking back at the lightly-gelled fringes and clean-shaven Naughties faces seems as sadly optimistic as an Aqua video. The Skulls was the perfect Friday night movie to watch with a horde of crushed-out girls, who were just inexperienced enough to think that this underworld of cute boys in secret societies was what College was all about. Paul Walker brought just the right note of corn-fed charm to set off his Dawson's Creek co-star, transforming the shallow script into something naive and adorable rather than simply predictable. If you're thinking of having a 2000's revival, put The Skulls right up there on your list of viewing.
She's All That (1999)
I first came across the fresh-faced Paul Walker in the 1999 teen-flick 'She's All That', directed by Robert Iscove.
Taking it's inspiration from George Bernard Shaw's 'Pygmalion', Walker's co-stars- an array of acting extraordinaires- included: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Rachael Leigh Cook and even R'n'B lover man Usher Raymond as the high school DJ. This film stands out as one my all time favorite trashy teen romantic comedies that explodes with memorable one-liners such as 'my soul is an island, my car is a Ford'.
Paul Walker plays Dean, the flawed friend of Freddie Prinze, Jr.'s Zack. He is the good looking jock that encourages the mockery of a geeky art student (Rachel Leigh Cook) and engineers a bet at her expense.
Not only is this film completely hilarious but the ultimate 90's tune, 'Kiss Me' by Sixpence None The Richer constantly turns up in the soundtrack. It also contains the most phenomenal dance routine by Reality TV star Brock Hudson (Matthew Lillard) to Rick James' 'Give it to me Baby'.
It's incredibly sad to think that this bright-eyed young actor would have such a premature end to his life, but at least his memory can still dynamically exist in these cinematic monuments.
The Lazarus Project (2008)
I watched this film over the summer with a boyfriend who fancied the hell out of Paul Walker. To my knowledge, Paul Walker never really had much of a gay following, and although I sat and admired Walker’s chiseled features as he lay on the executioners table, what struck me was the ability for Paul Walker to play Paul Walker role like no one else could. There is no one who could play a character as quiet, calm and internally turmoiled as Paul Walker.
In The Lazarus Project, Paul Walker plays just this character - Bill, an ex-con who is sentenced to death after a gold heist gone terribly wrong. Exploring the themes of purgatory and second chances, Walker’s quiet and precise portrayal of a man who finds himself alive and well in Oregon after a lethal injection leaves the viewer feeling isolated, intrigued and placed in a constant state of uncertainty in psychological thriller of a movie.
The film features all the right elements; Eerie towns, cute dogs, a frisbee based plot twist, and despite the pace of the film being sometimes so slow, and the plot holes being so big they should be considered plot-craters, Paul Walker’s performance of Bill shines through.
When Pleasantville was first released I was a slightly precocious 11-year-old and I spat in the face of movies. The Disney fodder of my peers made me feel cynical and ancient whereas films for adults were just a collage of punch-ups with a sprinkling of gruesome face munching. Pleasantville changed my mind about the whole cinema business; this stunning fairy tale for grown-ups showed me that films could be beautiful, artistic and imaginative. It also had a fair few mentions of the big S-E-X which were cheek-blushing bonus thrillers.
Although his role as Skip Martin is arguably minor, Paul Walker was a masterstroke of casting. His all-American good looks slip seamlessly into the surreal 50’s landscape and he is entirely believable as the naively enthusiastic basketball star with that dazzlingly wholesome grin. If you licked Skip’s face he would taste like apple pie and fresh stacks of blueberry pancakes, entirely in-keeping with the sickly sweet Pleasantville ethos. Oh, and he delivers the infamous boner confusion scene which I rewinded at least 5 times to feed my curious and gently blossoming gutter mind.
You know, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy. Everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae.
~ in Flaunt Magazine, July 2001.